BEVERLY HILLS, California — The man has taken on such iconic roles as Sailor Ripley, H.I. McDunnough, Dr. Stanley Goodspeed and Ben Sanderson. He has made six films that have grossed more than $100 million, a half-dozen more cult classics, and mixed in enough critically acclaimed flicks to earn respect as one of the most complex leading men out there. Yet it isn’t until now that Nicolas Cage has found a role worth repeating, as he returns to screens this week as wide-eyed adventurer Benjamin Franklin Gates in “National Treasure: Book of Secrets.” During an exclusive chat with MTV News, the sequel-shunning star spoke to us about his return engagement, developing a cartoon voice for an upcoming flick and whether he could kick Indiana Jones’ ass.
MTV: This is your first sequel in a nearly 30-year career. What’s the biggest difference between the first and second “National Treasure” movies?
Nicolas Cage: Well, personally, I like the subject matter more on “Book of Secrets.” I’m interested in the Civil War, and the history of John Wilkes Booth and Abraham Lincoln, and the assassination conspiracy potentially around that. The idea of Confederate gold, to me, is more dramatic. … This picture opens up the movie more into international treasure status, in that we go to London, England, and Paris, France, and see how the queen — Queen Victoria, in this case — was involved with the South and wanting to get the cotton. All these elements are things I never really knew about.
MTV: The movie also goes to some pretty crazy extremes. I mean, you’re hijacking the president post-9/11.
Cage: Yeah, the idea of kidnapping the president of the United States is so absurd and funny, that you can’t help but laugh and get with the humor of that. It raises the [absurdity] bar from stealing the Declaration of Independence to kidnapping the president himself.
MTV: And, after “Thirteen Days,” it was great watching Bruce Greenwood playing president again. That guy should run for office in real life.
Cage: Yeah. I think we had a good rapport together because he understood the nature of the humor of what we were doing. It never lapsed into, “This is preposterous.” It was more like, “This is wonderfully absurd.”
MTV: If Nicolas Cage could go after any treasure in the world, what would it be?
Cage: Well, apparently Catalina Island is covered with treasure, believe it or not, right off the coast of Los Angeles. Avalon in Catalina, apparently a lot of boats have sunk there with gold. That’d be fascinating to find out if that’s true or not.
MTV: Settle the question, once and for all: Who wins in a fight, Ben Gates or Indiana Jones?
Cage: Oh, I don’t think about it in those terms. I know people have made that comparison, but Ben Gates isn’t dealing with ghosts and things — he’s dealing with actual historical events. His only superpower is that he reads a little history. So it’s not a fair fight.
MTV: After the success of the first movie, did places like the Liberty Bell have problems with real people showing up and digging around for treasure?
Cage: I don’t know that, per se, but I do know that people have introduced themselves to me and said they’ve been going on “National Treasure” tours. Like, they’ll go take a tour around the country and say, “That’s where the characters did this!,” or “That’s where they discovered that!” They’ll go to Boston and Philadelphia. That sounds really fun — they’ve really gotten into the movie.
MTV: You’re reteaming again with one of your frequent collaborators, Jerry Bruckheimer (“The Rock,” “Gone in Sixty Seconds,” “Con Air,” the “National Treasure” films) on the Roger Rabbit-like cartoon/live-action flick “G-Force.” What can you tell us about that?
Cage: I’m playing a mole. Literally, a mole that lives under the ground, with a star [for a] nose. I’m going to work on a voice for that, I think. It looks great, the images they’ve shown me. The mole is upset because his family lived on a golf course and they exterminated his family. Now he’s going to get revenge.
MTV: A lot of stars do flicks like “Shrek” or “Shark Tale” and just talk in their own voice. But you’re going to actually develop a new voice.
Cage: Yeah, I think so. I want to do, like, [legendary actor] Edward G. Robinson on helium. That’s what I’m thinking.
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